Blood Stained Love Story 

Saliva (Island)

With diminished commercial returns for their last album (2004's Survival of the Sickest), with mainstream rock moving away from the macho metal swagger they specialize in, and with frontman Josey Scott pursuing an acting career, local radio-rock stars Saliva seemed to be finished. But, with the departure of guitarist Chris D'abaldo reducing them to a four-piece during recording (D'abaldo has since been replaced by Full Devil Jacket guitarist Jonathan Montoya), Saliva returns with album number four.

The opening "Ladies and Gentleman" displays a silly braggadocio we've come to expect from Saliva ("Like nothing you've ever seen before ... your jaws will be on the floor ... after this you'll be begging for more ... zzzzzz ..."), but what follows is a blandly professional hard-rock record that never equals the good silliness of previous career highlights, such as the sugary pop-metal of "Your Disease" and sports-arena-worthy boom-bap of "Click, Click, Boom" from the debut Every Six Seconds or the idiosyncratic Southern boogie rock of Survival of the Sickest's title track.

In those moments, Saliva sounded like themselves. But similar virtues are few and far between on Blood Stained Love Story. The rap-rock meets hair-metal "King of the Stereo" may boast a chorus that would have fit in on Dirk Diggler's album ("The whole world is waiting for the/King of the Stereo/This is too damn hot!"), but at least it's goofy fun. But on Blood Stained Love Story, Saliva sound torn between being themselves and desperately trying to conform to the contours of contemporary hard-rock success. "Black Sheep" is the kind of menacing metal they might have played at the New Daisy a decade ago. "Never Gonna Change" sounds like they're hoping radio listeners will mistake them for Nickelback. The vaguely rootsy "Here With You" actually sounds personal. And "Twister" sounds like they're trying to convince themselves they can be an alt-rock band.

The end result is an album-long personality crisis unlikely to reverse the band's commercial decline. -- CH

Grade: C+

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